One of the things that I love about JK is how many wonderful female characters she includes in her books. They’re all real, fully realized characters, not just stereotypes that exist to prop up the “real” characters (aka the males). Rowling’s women are just as fleshed out and important as her male characters. And this is why I’m so incredibly happy that Rowling included this bitch in her world:
I mean, just to clarify, I hate her. Just as much as anyone else does, I assure you. But she provides a balance that was totally necessary for the purposes of Rowling’s world. Don’t believe me? WELL:
1) On a totally non-gendered level, she’s one of the few people who we saw being evil and dickish a terrible WITHOUT also being a Death Eater. Snape may sneak in on a technicallity, but most people explain away his dickish behavior with the fact that he was undercover and PRETENDING to be a Death Eater (never mind that the Death Eaters were considered disbanded & in hiding till GoF / OooP). Fudge is pretty terrible as well, but he’s generally considered to have been simply weak and afraid, not actively terrible. Umbridge is terrible on purpose, and clearly taking advantage of the culture of fear in the wizarding world to enhance her position and grab power. Gross.
2) She’s one of only 3 evil women in the series. The Death Eaters are OVERWHELMINGLY male – there are only TWO female Death Eaters (that I can think of, let me know if I’m wrong of course) – Bellatrix and Alecto Carrow. Alecto has barely any characterization, outside of the obvious evil-ness that’s to be expected of a Death Eater. She and her brother Amycus are basically one character. Bellatrix needs a lot of going into, and I will give her a whole post, but she’s openly insane, does what she does because of a man, and has been mostly stripped of her femininity.
Umbridge is EXTREMELY feminine – in your face, in fact. She’s not particularly attractive, but she loves pink and frills and kittens and everything about her screams I’M A WOMAN THEREFORE I AM HARMLESS LOOK AT ALL THE SILLY THINGS I LOVE. And then she turns out to be the most evil bitch in the entire series (yeah, I said it. Nobody else comes close). JK uses her to show that evil is not a masculine trait, and that being a woman does not automatically make you better or more moral than men (ahem, people who insist the world would be a better place with women in charge). She represents the evils of bureaucracy, and she does it wearing pink suits and bows in her hair. Once again, JK created a REAL character, who does not fit into any boxes (beurocrat = overly efficient and not interested in frivilous things, feminine woman = inefficient and unintelligent). As much as I hate Umbridge and take a perverse pleasure in her fate, I am incredibly glad that JK chose to include her.